Tag Archives: God’s word

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost: Proper 12

Track 1:  Dishonesty

Genesis 29:15-28
Psalm 105:1-11, 45b
or Psalm 128
Romans 8:26-39
Matthew 13:31-33,44-52

Jacob had tricked his brother Saul our of his birthright. Not only that, he had stolen his Father Isaac’s final blessing. In today’s reading from Genesis we see that he has met his match in his Uncle Laban:

Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.   (Genesis 29:15-28)

Laban was deceptive. He was dishonest. But notice his easy it was for Laban to justify his actions. Is not this like most deceptive people, if they are cornered in their lie.

God the Father hates lies. We read from Provers:

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
but those who act faithfully are his delight.   (Proverbs 12:22)

Jesus honored those who were truthful:

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”   (John 1:47)

Why do we lie? To understand that we need to go back to the very beginning = the time when the first and worst lie of all was told. From Genesis:

 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.   (Genesis 3;1-6)

Jesus said that Satan is the Father of lies. He was a liar from the begging (John 8:44).. His specialty is deception and twisting the truth of God’s Word. Satan tries to convince us that we do not need God. We can go it alone, beause Satan has imparted wisdom to us. Jacob wanted to go it alone and prove himself. Laban wanted to do the same. This does not breed cooperation and harmony.

The Apostle Paul wrote:

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.   (2 Corinthians 4:4)

But life teaches us that we cannot go it alone. We are made in God’s image. We must live in partnership with God. Jesus has come to reestablish that partnership. He paid a great price that we might. It is up to us, however, to hold on to that truth.

We live iu an age of great deception. Politicians assure us that they are telling the truth, when the truth is far from them. The news media tells one lie father another. When they are caught they never apologize. Even Church leaders misleads us and attempt to manipulate us. Now, more than ever, we need to seek the truth of God’s Word. Only that will set us free. Jesus said:

Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”   (John 8:30-32)

Let us continue to be the light of Christ in a very dark world.

 

 

Track 2: The Pearl at Great Price

1 Kings 3:5-12
Psalm 119:129-136
Romans 8:26-39
Matthew 13:31-33,44-52

Jesus taught in many parables. This is one of my favorite from today’s Gospel reading:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”   (Matthew 13:45-46)

What does this parable tell us about the kingdom of heaven? It tells us that the kingdom is available to us. But, like the merchant, we must want it and search for it. From the Prophet Jeremiah:

Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,   (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

From the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew’s Gospel:

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.   (Matthew 6:31-33)

There is a price involved on our part. The merchant sold all that he had to purchase the pearl of great value. The kingdom is of such high value that it is more valuable than anything we might have. I( we do not value the kingdom then we may miss it. But when we find the kingdom we will never want to lose it. The psalmist wrote:

Your decrees are wonderful;
therefore I obey them with all my heart.

When your word goes forth it gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple.

I open my mouth and pant;
I long for your commandments.

 Turn to me in mercy,
as you always do to those who love your Name.

Steady my footsteps in your word;
let no iniquity have dominion over me.   (Psalm 119:129-133)

We are living in a very dark time. In fact, the darkness is increasing. Now, more than ever, we need God. The Prophet Isaiah wrote:

Seek the Lord while he may be found,
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
    and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.   (Isaiah 55:6-7)

God is drawing near to us, The final harvest will soon be upon us. Where do we stand? Have we found the kingdom? Have we found the Lord? If so, what price do we bring to him? He has given us his all. He has redeemed us by the blood of his Son Jesus. He is ready to reconcile us to himself: The Apostle Paul wrote:

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.   (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

Are we in Christ today? Today is the day of salvation. Today beings the kingdom of heaven for all who believe and embrace the Lord Jesus. He is the treasure. He is the kingdom.

Leave a comment

Filed under Eucharist, Gospel, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, Pentecost, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year A

Sixth Sunday after Epiphany

Choose Life

How serious is it for us to faithfully keep the commandments of God? For the Children of Israel it was a matter of life and death. Before they entered the promised land, Moses gave them this warning:

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.  (Deuteronomy 30:15-18)

This is the God of the Old Testament we might be thinking. Surely the God of the New Testament would not sound so severe? Let us examine some of the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount contained in today’s Gospel:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.   (Matthew 5:27-30)

Does Jesus sound any less severe? Sin and death or righteousness and life. We have a choice. We can choose one or the other. Our choice is all important.

If we have to rely only on our human nature then we are lost. The Apostle Paul warned:

Brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh.   (1 Corinthians 3:1-2)

Our human nature often does not want solid food. That was true for the Church in Corinth. They were caught up in jealousy and quarreling. Paul continues:

For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

The Church in Corinth had gotten off track. They were arguing over who was the true apostle. Do we not argue over which church is the true church? Let us concern ourselves over who can give the growth. God will do his part to help us, but we must do our part. We must seek him above all else. He has given his Son Jesus to wipe away our sins and the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. A part from him we can do nothing good.

God warns the Israelites and all of us by his word given through Moses:

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.   (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

We cannot choose life without seeking the God of life. We must seek his word daily. In the Lord’s Prayer we ask: “Give us this day our daily prayer.” Jesus said:

‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”   (Matthew 4:4)

The psalmist wrItes:

With my whole heart I seek you;
do not let me stray from your commandments.
I treasure your word in my heart,
so that I may not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes.
With my lips I declare
all the ordinances of your mouth.
I delight in the way of your decrees
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts,
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.   (Psalm 119:10-16

We must seek the aid of the Holy Spirit as well. The Apostle Paul writes;

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.   (Romans 8:2-6)

Worldly people do not struggle with sin, only the disciples of Jesus Christ. He is at our side to help us. Let us choose life!

Happy are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!

Happy are they who observe his decrees
and seek him with all their hearts!   (Psalm 119:1-2)

Leave a comment

Filed under Epiphany, Eucharist, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year A